It’s China – the home of steaming hot noodles, hot rice, and warm soups- an unproven food trend that has recently taken over the nation’s social media platforms.
Many have shared photos of what many would consider incredibly bland food, including uncooked carrots in cheese wrap, sandwiches made of two ingredients, and salads with dressings that aren’t greasy. All are unified with a single hashtag, the hashtag #bairenfan.
You’ll unlikely find images depicting roast turkey meals or cheeseburgers looking through the photos associated with this hashtag. You’ll see boring pictures of simple, cold, assembled meals that require little or no cooking time. What many Westerners usually associate with lunch.
The trend started gaining momentum in May when people began posting videos and photos of simple food items on platforms like Facebook and Twitter in China; however, some posts using the hashtag went up to October.
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In a video of this kind in one of these videos, a woman riding a train in Europe takes out an unwrapped paper bag filled with lettuce and a ham bag. They are then bundled together and add mustard, add mustard, and begin eating.
Other posts include photographs of raw vegetables and simple sandwiches – imagine a single bologna slice sandwiched between two pieces of white bread. Chinese netizens’ international friends, as well as spouses, share with their international colleagues or spouses.
The trend started spreading, and Chinese netizens worldwide began sharing their personal experiences with these simple meals, making #bairenfan one of the most popular hashtags on different platforms and local media over the last month.
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The pictures raised the question: Is this the food that people in China believe Caucasians have every day?
“I feel it’s important to recognize that perception is an evolving concept,” says British Chinese chef Andrew Wong, the third generation owner of London’s Michelin-starred Chinese Restaurant, A. Wong.
“China is inundated with Western cultural references, including fashion, philosophy, art and food. It’s happened in an extremely short and recent period of time, given how long China has had a relations to the West. It takes a while to get used to the rationale for certain things, which is the case for certain foods.”
In this instance, the trend only took a few weeks to develop. Initially, most social media posts posted in China were a mixture of mockery and disbelief.
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“My Australian colleagues have expressed the ‘don’t give a damn’ attitude of meals for white people in a way. It was the bread slice last time. Then there’s two carrots. The only effort for a ceremony was to put the two in lunch boxes.” One user wrote on Xiaohongshu, a well-known Chinese social media platform.
Another user posted a picture of their lunchbox of two carrots and baby spinach and expressed concerns about whether the owner could “generate enough energy” with just a tiny amount of food.
Some complained of feeling empty and devoid after eating these meals.
Then, the trend swept across Twitter, and users who speak English began sharing their photos and videos under the hashtag #whitepeoplemeals. (One of these tweets garnered 4.3 million views over the past 3.5 months.)
Many Twitter users, many of whom are beyond the Chinese community, have found the hashtag funny and honest.
“Well, you can’t argue with this,” one user stated.
One Japanese Twitter user shared her experiences in the United States: “I was kinda surprised that I saw people just bringing veggies in ziplock for lunch when I was an exchange student in the States.”
In China, as the hashtag gained traction globally, specific media reports expressed amazement at how people worldwide embraced the image.
Numerous media outlets have reported that a trending topic was emerging. The hashtag #Whitepeoplemeals was noticed by white people and shared fun comments from users worldwide.
However, that’s not the end of the story. Another group appeared from the shadowy corners of the internet to support these simple meals, with a new hashtag – #Bairenfanyeshifan, or #whitepeoplemealsmatter – popping up on social media platforms in China.
Many believe that eating these kinds of foods can help them shed weight. Some people looked at it from a more severe angle and claimed that the current trend reflects the challenges and lifestyle of our society today.
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One article posted on 163.com, a Chinese blog/media website, analyzed the similarities between these easy meals and the present “quiet quitting” attitude, simply slowing down the pace of work instead of leaving the job – the tired workers of China.
The article thanked the bland and bland dishes to help in “maintaining their lives” without needing much effort, particularly during the lunch hour at work. Also, the no-hustle attitude reflects that they don’t care much about their career.
Another benefit highlighted in the article is that contrary to full Chinese dinners, they aren’t sedative, which means you can avoid the temptation of taking an afternoon nap.
Chef from Malaysia, Edward Voon, founded Auor, the French-inspired fine-dining restaurant in Hong Kong. The trend, he says, highlights the cultural differences.
“I never thought of making a sandwich when I was young as I was always surrounded by Peranakan, Malay and Hokkien cuisine,” he told CNN Travel. “I never put my hands in a salad back then.”
The only thing he remembers of having something like a “white people meal” in his early years was an egg that was boiled and canned tuna.